‘It would be a bigger upset than US Portsmouth beating Portchester last season’ – Moneyfields boss Turnbull on mouthwatering FA Vase clash with Royals
Every memorable journey has to start somewhere, and for Glenn Turnbull the greatest cup run of his life began as an underdog against AFC Portchester in the second qualifying round of the FA Vase last season.
Goals from Dec Seiden and Andy Todd gave his US Portsmouth side, from Division 1 of the Wessex League, a shock 2-1 success at higher tier AFC Portchester.
And so began a chain of events that was to not only take USP to within a penalty shoot-out of Wembley, but would also see Turnbull installed as Moneyfields boss.
Portchester boss Mick Catlin was relieved of his duties after the Royals followed up their USP defeat with three more losses. A few months later, Dave Carter left Moneys to take over at Portchester. And after USP’s fairytale season had ended, Turnbull replaced him at Dover Road.
For the second season running, the Moneys boss is now preparing to face Portchester at the same stage of the Vase. This time, he reckons, it would be an even bigger shock if his side progressed.
‘This is an opportunity to get our season going, it hasn’t really started yet,’ said Turnbull. ‘Portchester’s seems to have got going, they seem to have sorted themselves out.
‘I don’t think we’ve under-estimated it (the Wessex League Premier), perhaps we’ve been a bit blase in one or two games. I think what Wilky (Baffins boss Shaun Wilkinson) found out last year we’re finding out this year. It’s not as straightforward as we thought it would be and we’re having to learn rapidly.
‘It will be nice to get back to being underdogs, something we’re more comfortable with.
‘One hundred per cent we are the underdogs.
‘They (Portchester) have players who have played at Wembley, they’ve got players who have won the Vase (Lewis Fennemore and Lee Wort). They’re a big side at step 5, and they have the weight of expectation on their shoulders.
‘For me personally, it would be a bigger upset than last season.
‘I think there’s a bigger gap between the teams now than what there was.
‘I know people will say we’re in the same division and we’ve come down from the Southern League, but we know the truth.
‘I’m not very good at mind games - I’m not (Horndean boss) Michael Birmingham!
‘The only thing we have in common with the Moneyfields Southern League side is a yellow shirt and the badge.
‘We’re mainly a side who won promotion from Wessex 1 on points-per-game.
‘Most of our players haven’t played 75 games at Wessex Premier level - only a couple have played at Southern League level.
‘Portchester had Conor Bailey on their bench the other night. They have so much experience.
Carter has overseen a huge squad rebuild. Of the 14 Royals players who appeared in the Vase loss to USP, only two are likely to play at the weekend - and one of those (Rob Evans) will be playing for Moneyfields. The only Portchester survivor could be striker Wort.
In contrast, seven of the 13 USP players that day - Tom Price, Tom Cain, Callum Glen, Jordan Pile, Elliott Turnbull, James Franklyn and Dec Seiden - are likely to be in the Moneys squad on Saturday.
While Portchester have a stack of ex-Moneys players, the opposite is also true - Price, Cain, Evans, Adam Cripps, Harry Birmingham and Bradey Norton are all ex-Royals.
Turnbull added: ‘It’s all the classic cliches when you’re an underdog. If your big game players turn up and they have an off day, we’ve got a chance.
‘If their big players turn up, if they’re all a seven out of 10 and our players are a seven out of 10, more time than not they’d win.
‘But that’s why we get involved in football - we all know the best team doesn’t always win.
‘That’s the beauty of being an underdog.’
US played their final four Vase ties last season, once football had restarted after the third national lockdown, behind closed doors. It is an irony that the semi-final was watched in a near empty stadium, while a second qualifying round tie this season should attract the biggest crowd in Moneyfields’ history.
‘Though I felt it worked to our advantage last season (having no crowds), the lads should be relishing the opportunity of playing in front of a big crowd,’ said Turnbull.
‘I’d be devastated if we don’t get 300 there.’
Moneys have already played two PO postcode derbies in 2021/22 in front of healthy attendances, and lost them both.
‘At Horndean there were a lot of people and at Baffins there were a lot of people, but I don’t think that had anything to do with our poor performances,’ said Turnbull.
Moneys have some selection dilemmas. Cripps, who has been playing as the left-sided defender in a back three, could have to work and Josh Hazell is on holiday.
Striker Mig Dark could make the bench - seven subs are allowed in the Vase - after a hat-trick for the reserves against Liss.
Teenager Chad Cornwell, one of the quickest players I’ve seen this season, could also start at right wing-back in what would easily be the biggest game of his fledgling career.
‘It’s a game Chad could play in. He’s got the one thing all defenders hate playing against - he’s really quick, he’s rapid,’ remarked Turnbull. ‘He also listens and he asks intelligent questions. I’d have no qualms in playing him.’